Sunday, May 29, 2011

Jesus Hands Us the Holy Spirit

Homily from the 6th Sunday of Easter - Year A

Many years ago, a mother, wanting to encourage her young son’s interest in the piano, took her boy to a concert by the great Polish pianist, Padarewski.  After they were seated, the mother spotted a friend a few rows away and walked down the aisle to say hello.  While she was gone, the son noticed a door with a sign on it that read "No Admittance."  Imagine the mother's horror, when she returned to her seat to find her young boy missing.  Imagine her further horror when the theater lights dimmed, and the curtain opened, and the spotlight focused on the grand Steinway piano, where there sat her little boy who began to play “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.”  As you can imagine, she, and in fact the whole audience reacted with surprise.  The little boy, noticing he was somewhere he probably shouldn’t be started to panic.  It was just then that the great Padarewski came on stage, walked up behind the boy and whispered in his ear, “Don’t stop.  Keep going.”  Then, leaning over, Padarewski reached down with his left hand and began playing a bass part.  Then his right arm reached around to the other side of the boy and he added a running arpeggio.  Together, the great Padarewski and this little boy, turned a very simple tune (and a very frightening situation) into a brilliant masterpiece to which the audience roared in applause.

That’s the way the Holy Spirit works. He is our great helper, our counselor.  In the Gospel today, Jesus calls the Holy Spirit the “advocate.”  The word “advocate” is a legal term that means “one who pleads the cause of another.”  The Holy Spirit pleads our cause to God the Father.

You might wonder, “Why do we need our cause pleaded? Why do we need an advocate?”  The reason why we need an advocate is because we have an accuser.  In the book of Revelation, we hear about our accuser: “the accuser of our brothers is cast out, who accuses them before our God day and night.”

Who is the accuser?  The Jews of Christ’s time had a word for accuser – Satan.  Satan is the accuser who tries to tell us that our sins make us incapable of going to the Father for forgiveness.  The Holy Spirit is the advocate who tells us that our sins make it absolutely necessary to go to the Father for forgiveness and that the Father will indeed forgive us.

Now the Holy Spirit is not going to say, “You’re perfect. You’ve done nothing wrong.” The Spirit of Truth cannot perjure Himself before God.  The Holy Spirit is not going to say, “There’s no need to feel sorry for your sins. God loves you no matter what.”  God does love us no matter what. He also loves us too much to let us remain in sin.  So the Father gives us the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth to be our advocate.

And the Spirit of Truth might point out our sins to us.  But He does so in a way that leads us into light, unlike Satan the accuser who points out our sins to lead us into darkness.

It’s kind of like this: have you ever heard your mother or father or spouse say the following: “Come on, you’re better than that”?  That’s how the Advocate speaks to us – pointing us towards our better selves, our true selves.

The accuser on the other hand says, “You’re worthless. There’s nothing good about you. The Father doesn’t want to have anything to do with you. Just run and hide.”

You’re not worthless. God doesn’t make junk.

You want to know how much you are worth.  Look at the Cross.  That’s the price God paid for you.

The Advocate, the Spirit of Truth is with us always.  And He comes to us sort of how like Padarewski came to the little boy.  Padarewski put his hands over the boy and began to play a masterpiece.  The Holy Spirit comes to us through the laying on of hands as well.

At the baptism of infants, the Holy Spirit is called down upon the child as the priest lays hands on the baby’s head.  And he does this immediately after saying the prayer of exorcism in which he casts out the accuser and prays for the washing away of Original Sin.

The Holy Spirit is called down during the Eucharistic Prayer as the priest lays his hands down over gifts of bread and wine.

The Holy Spirit is called down to bring spiritual healing to the sick when a priest lays his hands upon an ill person in the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.

The Holy Spirit who was sent for the forgiveness of sins is called down upon the penitent in confession when the priest extends his hands over them.

And of course, an outpouring of the Holy Spirit is given in the Sacrament of Confirmation, when the bishop marks our foreheads with Sacred Chrism and places his hands on our heads saying, “Receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

This is what we just heard about in the first reading.  When Peter and John visit the newly baptized in Samaria, “they laid hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.”

Think about this, that same Holy Spirit, that Peter and John handed on to the Samarians has come to you through the laying on of hands.  Peter and John and the other Apostles laid hands on their successors, and those men laid hands on their successors, and so on and so on, to the present day, to the present bishops of the world, who lay hands on the present priests of the world, who lay hands on you.

The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth has traveled over 2,000 years through time and halfway around the globe; to be your Advocate, to plead your cause before God the Father, to cast out Satan the accuser, and to remain with you forever.

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